Houston's weather is famously manic. One day might be warm and humid, the type of day which will make almost anyone wonder if the proper term for our local climate should be "swampy." But that won't work, because our weather can change within hours, and the next morning might present us with a dramatically different forecast.
While it doesn't happen often, sometimes, during this time of year, the mercury dips dramatically, and Houston is faced with its own version of a winter weather. Generally more of an Icy Slush Fest than a pretty example of a snowy "Winter Wonderland," but it's what we get on our coldest days.
It's during these almost always brief periods of frigid weather that many Houstonians encounter familiar but nearly forgotten cold weather scenarios. For instance:
5. Many of us Don't Really Have Cold Weather Clothing.
Or not much of it anyway. My current winter weather wardrobe consists of a handful of hoodies and one light jacket. I don't think I'm alone in this, judging from the other guys I see similarly dressed, scurrying as quickly as they can from their cars to whatever source of heat they're running for. It just doesn't usually get THAT cold here, so buying a few heavy coats just isn't on everyone's must do list. On the four or five truly cold days out of the year where it seems like your bones might freeze on the stiff legged run from the front door to your car, that lack of foresight becomes obvious. As a side note, some people don't have warm clothes because they don't have the money to buy them, so donating clothes to shelters is a kind thing to do.
4. People From Cold Places Will Make Fun of You.
Inevitably, once a really cold day hits our area, people from colder climates will make fun of us. It's generally good-natured, but, let's face it, when your fingers feel like they might just shatter like icicles if you tap them too hard (which you're doing, since you can no longer feel them) no one wants to hear some chucklehead from Michigan joke about it being shorts and T-shirt weather. Don't worry though, eventually they'll experience some freak heatwave where they live, and you can laugh at their horror of being subjected to 95 degree weather.
3. You Will Be Told to Drip Your Faucets, (and Other Advice.)
Which is good advice, because burst pipes is definitely a bummer. And you'll be told to check your car's antifreeze too, which is also a good idea. Every time the weather gets notably cold in Houston, I hear the same advice, so I guess it's a good idea to do those things. I'll also add that bringing in outdoor pets should be something people do. I don't care if a dog is an "outside dog," if I see one chained to a tree in 25 degree weather, I'm calling in a complaint.
2. Most of Us in Houston Don't Have Gear For Icy Weather.
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This fact made itself very obvious one morning several years ago, when the area had seriously iced up overnight, and I was already running late for work. I came outside to discover my car coated in ice, and hurriedly tried to de-ice the windows, which had completely frozen over. Running the car's defrost didn't work, spraying water on it just made the situation worse, and the closest thing I could find to try to chip away the problem was an old paint scraper - Which barely worked at all. A couple of houses down, a new neighbor watched me bemusedly for a few minutes before walking over and offering me a tool he had for scraping ice off of car windows. It worked like a charm in seconds. Turned out he had just moved into the neighborhood, and was from New Jersey. He had tools I'd never even considered needing. His good-natured ribbing was the price I paid for his kindness and ice scraper. It was worth it. Of course, driving in cold icy weather is another thing all together, because...
1. Most of Us Don't Seem to Know How to Drive in Icy Weather.
Every time there's a cold snap that produces ice, we get to see the same type of footage running on the nightly news. Some car or cars sliding or spinning on an icy road somewhere in town. I always wondered about that. I mean, a pretty sizable chunk of the country routinely deals with those same sorts of winter driving conditions, why do they seem to cause us so much grief? "Steer into a skid." That's basically the advice I've always heard about hitting ice, and I'm the first to admit that I just try to stay off the roads when they're frozen over. "Steer into a skid." Great. What then?
People in Northern climes have special tires, and a lot more experience driving in icy environments. I'm not good with this cold weather thing, and just hunker down and ride it out. Which is fine, because a day or two later it might be in the 80s again.